Monday, September 20, 2010

This week in pictures: Sept 10 to 16 2010 (week 2/26)

Summer is slowly winding down, but that doesn't stop the shenanigans.... Week number 2, 7 pictures taken, but 1 is stuck in my cell phone... I need to figure out how to upload pictures from my phone without internet. It would make this goal much easier.... but anyway...

Friday September 10: Folake and I celebrating Fashion Night Out. Great night! Quintessential NYC event. Celebrities, and regular people happily co-mingling over free booze and shrimp cocktail.
Saturday September 11th: Sneaking a photo on a beautiful stoop in Brooklyn. Chichi, Leroy and I came across this beautiful stoop while strolling through Prospect Heights and "broke in" in order to take this picture.... ok breaking in is an over-statement as the stoop wasn't locked, but we still felt very rebellious!

Sunday September 12th: Day one of my No Dishes Left in the Sink Overnight goal. As of today (September 20) I've only missed one day! Yay!

Monday September 13th: Made 2 more new recipes today... Took pictures of them. I'll save those for another post.

Tuesday September 14th: Went to a fundraiser for the C.O.R.N.E.R project with my co-workers. After the fundraiser we stopped by Crif Dogs for a hot dog... they have a secret bar in the back. You have to go in this random phone booth and dial the phone to get in. Here is my co-worker Jennifer ringing the bell.

Wednesday September 15th: CRAZY storm in NYC. This is what it looked like from my office at work.

Thursday September 16th: Took a picture of a fallen tree.... the aftermath of our big storm. I took the picture with my phone.... and I can't figure out how to upload it... sigh...

So that was this week... good friends, crazy weather and a clean sink. Loves it :-)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

This week in pictures: Sept 3 to 9, 2010 (week 1/26)

Alright folks... I'm embarking on my 6 month, photo-a-day marathon goal.... pray for me... here's week 1! :-)

Pictures Week 1- September 3rd to September 9th, 2010
Friday September 3rd: Stop and smell the roses. This picture makes me chuckle

Saturday September 4th: No wedding is completely without a bat wielding bride pummeling a pinata

Sunday September 5th: Biking from San Fran to Saulsilito.... congrats to Anthony for getting me on a bike for a long, sometimes difficult, but beautiful bike ride down (up?) the coast.

Monday September 6th: Beach memories... the requisite foot picture.. LOL I take this photo on every single beach. So cheesy!

Tuesday September 7th: Back to New York... picked up the creature and within 15 minutes this is what he had done to his bed and my apartment...

Wednesday September 8th: Photoshoot for my fabulous veggie ratatouille (full post to come!)

Thursday: No pics :-(

New Foods #10-14: Compliments of Ms. Tang!

I love food folks... Among my group of friends there are a select few food folks. All of my friends like to eat, but most of them don't view food as an event. Food folks will plan an entire day, an entire weekend or an entire vacation entirely around food. Most of my New York friends won't even go out of their 'hood for decent fruits and veggies.... but that's a whole 'nother post...

Anyway, my favorite food folk has to be my girl Janet. Janet lives in California, but usually visits NYC once every year or two, and every time she comes she has an entire itinerary entirely for food. I ALWAYS look forward to her visits and happily use them as an excuse to run around the city sampling cupcakes, dessert trucks, pork buns, sweetbreads and expensive ass PB&J sandwiches. I recently was privileged to attend Janet's wedding to her now husband Chad. Because Janet and Chad are such adventerous eaters, I knew that the food at their wedding and related festivities would be great. The wedding food was delicious (and the wedding was awesome), but the food that really stood out to me was the Chinese dinner that the bride's family hosted the night after the wedding (see the photo of Janet, Chad, my friend Anthony and I at the dinner). The 7 or 8 course dinner ( I lost count) was held at a huge Chinese banquet hall and during that dinner I had the opportunity to try FOUR new foods, bringing my food count up to 12!!

#10- Jelly Fish: The first course of the dinner was a Chinese BBQ plate, which included some BBQ'd chicken, pork, a seaweed slaw and in the center was what I thought were rice noodles, but found out after wards were actually jelly fish strips! the jelly fish was chilled and the strips were a little "crisp", in the same way that shrimp is crisp. The jelly fish didn't have a distinct taste, it just took on the taste of the sauce. Overall I think I liked the jelly fish. I don't think I would go out of my way to eat them, but I'd probably eat a couple forkfulls if they were placed in front of me :-)

#11- Shark Fin: The 3rd or 4th course of the dinner was a shark fin soup. The soup was sweet and sour with little shreds of shark fin sprinkled though it. The shark fin soup caused a bit of controversy at our table as one of the wedding guests was protesting the soup after seeing a show on TV describing the practice of "shark finning" where fisherman cut off the sharks fin and throw the carcass of the shark back into the water to die or be attacked by predators. Kind of sucks... I listened politely as I slurped happily through my bowl of soup... I did mention that the shark steak farmers and shark fin farmers should work together so they don't have to waste all that tasty shark meat... you know just so I didn't seem totally insensitive to the plight of the creature inside my bowl... Anyway, the shark (what I could taste of it with the tiny shreds) wasn't bad. It had the consistency of eel, chewy and a bit fishy. Although it was a delicious soup, it was fairly unremarkable in terms of new foods.

#12 Fish Eyeball: We had a DELICIOUS steamed whole fish course that came complete with head and eyeball. The maitre'de said the eyeball was edible, so of course I had to try it. Anthony actually tried it first and said it tasted a bit like eggs. I took a little bite... at first I thought that maybe it was a fake fish egg, because the consistency felt kind of like biting into one of those fake plastic fruits... little weird plastic bits flaked off into my mouth, but I was assured that it really was the fish's eye. I ate a little bit more. It was in fact sulfur-y like an egg yolk, but really really hard. I'm not sure if you could bite all the way through it... and honestly I'm not sure if I'd want to find out what kind of consistency is in the center. I read on a few blogs about other people's encounters with fish eyes and decided that our eyes were probably REALLY overcooked. Other people describe them as fatty and a little jelly like.... with the pupil still intact. Ours were really hard and there was no pupil. Oh well, I'll have to try it again to get the full effect.

#13 Chicken Head: Although it garnered the most attention for me and our table, the eating of the chicken head was the most anti-climactic of all the weird dim sum foods. It was far more amusing to position the chicken head randomly on people's plates when they weren't looking then it was to eat it. I was instructed by Janet's mom that people usually just suck and chew on the little mohawk thing, and that I shouldn't try and bite through the head. Didn't seem so bad, so I took a little suck and a little bite... tastes like chicken skin. Took a few more bites... more chicken skin... tried to bite into the beak, but beaks are apparently not for eating. The eating of the chicken head proved to be a crowd favorite, which was really silly because I'm sure everyone there has eaten chicken skin... is it so different when it's attached to a skull? But whatever, I'm still counting it as a new food!

#14 Sweetbreads- Although I didn't eat them at Janet/Chad's wedding dinner, the last time Janet/Chad visited NYC we visited Blue Ribbon Brasserie and I tried Janet's sweetbreads. Despite the name, sweetbreads are neither bread nor sweet... in fact they are the pan-fried thymus gland of an unfortunate young cow (veal), pig or lamb. Despite the confusing name, the sweetbreads were actually pretty tasty. They were well seasoned, and had the consistency of a very smooth or silky liver. The taste was a little liver-y as well, but not as strong. Overall I really enjoyed them, but I think that was in large part due to the seasoning and the pan frying. If they weren't seasoned properly, I doubt they'd be very appealing. I'd definitely try them again for an appetizer, but probably wouldn't make a meal out of it.

Thanks Janet for inspiring my food exploration! What do you think I should try next? :-)

Goal #3: Wine tasting in Napa

After our fabulous hot air balloon ride in Napa I was able to visit the fabulous O'Brien winery and do an official wine tasting! The winery was amazing. The people were really friendly and our guide, Rena (I think), took us on a tour of the vineyards, let us sample the different grapes, and then guided us through a tasting of this season's wines.

Unfortunately I waited over a week (and many more glasses of wine) to write this blog so the nuances of the wines are a distant memory. Despite that I really learned a lot at the wine tasting. Unless you're in a tasting environment, you don't usually get a chance to really discover the differences between different wines. On this tasting I was, for the first time, really able to notice the difference between an oaked Chardonnay and an un-oaked chardonnay or the difference between a Cabernet and a Merlot.

The tasting was really interesting. I wouldn't stay that after my visit to O'Brien's I now have a sophisticated wine palate, but I would say that I have a better appreciation for people who are able to taste distinct flavors in different wines (ie floral, fruity with melon overtones...) I always just figured they were pretentious and full of caca... I also feel like it's helped me develop a more intellectual appreciation of wine... not just an appreciation of it's soothing qualities after a long day..

Overall a great experience. I'm definitely looking forward to getting more into wine tasting. I may even host a little tasting at my house this fall!

A little piece of heaven... hot air ballooning over Napa (Goal #9)

During my trip to Northern California last week, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to take a hot air balloon ride over beautiful Napa Valley. I had kind of written off the balloon ride goal, not knowing when or where I'd have a chance to do it (I really didn't want to balloon over NYC) or who would want to join me. I mentioned it casually (and half jokingly) to my friend Anthony as one of the goals I wanted to achieve when I was in Cali and was pleasantly surprised when he told me that he was down and had actually been thinking of doing the exact same thing during our trip! He did a little research and found a great Balloon company in Napa- Balloons Above the Valley who charter sunrise balloon rides over beautiful wine country, followed by a complimentary champagne brunch

We had to be in Napa (about an hour away from Oakland) and at our launch location at 6:15am... which meant we had to get up hella early (4:30am!). Needless to say there were few pictures of me taken during this flight as we barely had time to shower and wipe the crust out of our eyes before getting on the road. Once we got to the location we were put in vans and shuttled to our launch site, where they were busily blowing up the balloons....

Hot air balloons are filled with propane gas, which is loud and REALLY hot. I was afraid that it would be cold in Northern Cali that early in the morning, but the heat from the 4 gas tanks was blazing.... and really close my head... The website instructed us to dress in layers, but there really was no need.

The balloons rise pretty quickly when the gas is on full and soon we were floating far above the wine country. Napa is a valley (for some reason it just clicked with me on this trip that a "valley" is the depression between hills/mountains, but anyway... moving on...) that is full of vineyards. There were a bunch of balloons dotting the sky that morning.

Vineyards everywhere... my kind of place...
Our sister and brother balloons basking in the sunrise...

Another view of the vineyards and a sleepy little neighborhood

Balloon shadow on vines...

Here's Anthony and I... sleepy, but so blessed and thankful for the experience

Speaking of Anthony... at some point he pointed to a dry, dusty looking patch of unused land (see below) and asked me if that's what Indiana looked like.... and he was completely serious... SMH Californians

After the ride was over, it was these guy's jobs to pull our balloon back down to earth... I was shocked that we were still doing this kind of thing by hand... I mean isn't there some sort of machine that should be pulling big 2 ton balloons... not 3 little high school dudes on summer break.... it looked real difficult... :-/

After our balloon ride we were treated to a champagne brunch back at the main store... where we proceeded to get tipsy on mimosas before we even started our Napa wine tasting adventures.

Ballooning experience was amazing. The sights were breathtaking, the company was wonderful and we couldn't have asked for a more clear and beautiful California morning. I would definitely love to go on another hot air balloon ride. Despite being stuck in the middle of the sky in a balloon full of propane gas, it was extremely relaxing to be sort of bobbing along with the wind. This would be a great excursion for anyone who wants a unique experience in the air, but isn't really a thrill seeker.

Thanks to Anthony for making this goal a reality and I couldn't have picked a better ballooning partner :-)